Games of the XIX Olympiad
12 - 27 October 1968
The choice of Mexico City to host the 1968 Olympic Games was a controversial one because of the city's high altitude, 2,300m, which meant that the air contained 30% less oxygen than at sea level. The rarefied air proved a great difficulty to many athletes, including the horses, competing in endurance events, such as Eventing. It had been pointed out that racehorses competing in Mexico City arrived just the day before and left right after the race. On the other hand, horses for the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City had arrived several weeks before to adjust. It was, finally, concluded that after a spontaneous adjustment to the high altitude in the first week, a serious loss of strength and form occurred from the 10th to the 20th day. Thus an adjustment period of three to four weeks was advised. The horses from the Soviet Union, Argentina and Ireland were, in mid-September, the first to arrive. The last to stable were France and Germany on 28 September, i.e. 20 days before the start of the competitions on 18 October.
The selection of the site for Eventing had also caused controversy. Originally Oaxtepoc, 110km south of the capital at 1,450m altitude had been chosen. But the tough stony ground and a subtropical climate forced the FEI to ask for an alternative. The golf club of Avandaro, in the Valle de Bravo, 150 km north-west of Mexico City was proposed. It had an altitude of 1,800m, but was famous for its mild climate, with a permanent breeze from a nearby lake. Ignored was the fact that from October to March tropical rain fell almost every day.
The rainfall came promptly on cross-country day. It only lasted 30 minutes but the small two-meter stream serving as obstacle number 34 grew to reach up to 12m in width, with no visible take-off point. The programme of the equestrian competitions was held over eight days with two rest days in between.
Two German Teams
Of particular interest was the first participation of Dressage and Eventing riders from the German Democratic Republic. In 1960 and 1964, their Eventers were part of a unified German team. This time they were allowed to enter under their own flag. This happened again in 1972. After that equestrian sport was considered by the GDR sports authorities as no guarantee for medals and thus eliminated from further Olympic consideration.
Games Facts & Figures
- 112 nations
- 5,516 athletes (781 women; 4,735 men)
- 20 sports
- For the first time, the winners had to undergo a doping test (narcotics, stimulants). The 1968 Games saw the first drug disqualification, as a competitor tested positive…for excessive alcohol.